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LESSON 7 - THE SABBATH AND HEALTH (MARK 3:1-6)

Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: Our series of lessons on healing hase taken a story
about healing and looked at how Jesus heals our infirmities.  Does
God only fix things after they are broken?  Or does he also believe
in "preventative medicine?" Our study of another story of healing
this week gives us a deeper insight into whether God created a
program to retain health and avoid sickness. Let's jump in!

I. THE SHRIVELED HAND MAN

     A. Turn with me to Mark 3:1-6. Read.

     B. What would it be like to have a shriveled hand in Jesus'
     day? Would it be life-threatening? Would it affect your
     ability to earn a living?

          1. If I asked you to choose between a loss of sight, 
          hearing, one hand or one leg, which would you choose?

               a. Why?

          2. Was it necessary for the well-being of this fellow 
          with the shriveled hand to be healed on Sabbath?

          3. Was it necessary for the well-being of this fellow to
          be healed at anytime?  Would he be "OK" to continue
          through life like this?

     C. Why did Jesus have the man "Stand up in front of everyone?"
     (He obviously wanted to make a point.)

          1. We have three "groups" here: 

               a. those who came to the synagogue to attend Sabbath
               services for spiritual growth; 

               b. those who "were looking for a reason to accuse 
               Jesus;" and,

               c. our fellow who attended and could use physical
               healing.

          2. To which one of these groups was Jesus miracle 
          primarily directed? (Our shriveled hand friend was
          obviously healed, but Jesus could have healed him "in a
          corner" and told him (as He had others) "don't tell
          anyone."  Those looking for a reason to accuse were not
          seeking a lesson, they were seeking evidence.  So I think
          that Jesus was primarily aiming this miracle at those who
          came for spiritual growth.)

     D. Let's explore the spiritual point. Jesus asked "those 
     looking to accuse Him" the question, "Which is lawful on the
     Sabbath: to do good or do evil, to save life or kill?"

          1. Is that a fair question?

          2. Was anyone seeking to kill the guy with the shriveled
          hand?

          3. Logic has something called the "division" or "black-
          white" fallacy. This is the name for an argument in which
          the speaker claims there are only two choices, when in
          fact there are more. A historical example is the bumper
          sticker, "America: love it or leave it."  While the
          sticker makes me grin, it leaves out several other
          obvious options.

          4. Isn't Jesus presenting them with a logical fallacy?
          Can't somebody just "sit in the pews" and not kill anyone or
          heal anyone. Can we "just watch?" (Look at the setting
          again. The one group came to "look for a reason to accuse
          Jesus" (v.2) and they were actually plotting to kill Him
          (v.6) This one group really was involved in "killing" and
          "doing evil," while Jesus was "saving life" on the
          Sabbath.)

               a. Is Jesus is just describing the situation, not
               laying out all the possibilities?

     E. Would the general crowd who came for a spiritual blessing
     understand the evil that the "watchers" had in mind?  If they
     did not, was I wrong in suggesting that they were the ones for
     whom this miracle was primarily intended?

          1. Verse 5 tells us that Jesus was angry at the "stubborn
          hearts" of the watchers. Is this further proof the
          primary audience was the watchers?  

               a. Why would He care if they were not the audience?

          2. If the "watchers" were the primary audience, why did
          Jesus deliberately antagonize them?  Why be so "in their
          face" about this? (This reinforces the idea that the
          primary audience was those who came for a spiritual
          blessing. Jesus could have been upset with the watchers
          because of their influence on the rest. We still have not
          completely unearthed the spiritual lesson.)

     F. Do you think those attending the synagogue for the
     spiritual blessing were surprised that Jesus would heal on the
     Sabbath?

          1. Did this challenge their existing ideas? (I bet it 
          did.)

          2. Did this healing force them to "take sides?" Were 
          they, too, either for or against Jesus? (Yes. They had to
          either keep their old ideas or adopt new ones about the
          Sabbath.)

          3. Matthew 12:30 quotes Jesus as saying, "He who is not
          with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me
          scatters."

     G. How about you?  Do you do good or evil on the Sabbath? Is
     there a "neutral zone," like sleeping, for example? (If our
     activities line up on one side or the other, we should explore
     what it means to "do good" on the Sabbath.  If Jesus had a
     message He wanted to convey about the Sabbath and healing, we
     need to see if we can discover it.)

II. THE SABBATH

     A. Is Jesus trying to teach us about "appropriate activities"
     on the Sabbath? Is healing an appropriate activity on the
     Sabbath? (At a minimum, the Mark 3 story must mean that!)

     B. Remember my concern about always looking at the context of
     Jesus' teaching to understand His message? Back up with me to
     Mark 2:23-28 because we have another "story" about the
     Sabbath. Read.

          1. Is this a story about "healing?" (In the case of the
          man with the shriveled hand, "healing" was the
          regeneration of his hand.  Eating is a form of
          "regeneration" for the body.)

          2. Would it be appropriate to "go hungry" on the Sabbath?

          3. When it comes to hunger or "regeneration" what does
          Jesus mean when He says (Mark 2:27) "The Sabbath was made
          for man, not man for the Sabbath?" (The Sabbath is meant
          to regenerate man. This specifically includes (in our
          examples) both healing and eating.)

     C. Keep your finger in Mark 2 and turn with me to Genesis 2:1-
     3. Read.

          1. Did God need to rest?

          2. If He did not, why does the text say "He rested?" 
          (Unlike man, God does not get tired. (Ps. 121) This means
          He stopped.)

               a. Does our text: "Sabbath was made for man ...."
               give us any insight into what is going on here? 
               
               b. Does this mean that "resting" on the Sabbath is
               an appropriate part of the regeneration of our
               health? (Yes.)

                    (1) So sleeping is "OK?"  In that division 
                    between doing good and evil on the Sabbath we
                    were talking about a little while ago, does
                    sleeping gets chalked up to the "doing good"
                    side? (I think so. But read on.)

     D. What does Genesis 2:3 tell us that God did to the Sabbath
     other than rest on it. (He "blessed" it and "made it holy.")

          1. Let's write this down, "blessed," "made holy" and 
          "rested."

     E. Now let's go back to the "moral" of the Mark 2 story. Read
     Mark 2:27-28 again. The conclusion to the "Sabbath was made
     for man..." is that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. What does it
     mean that Jesus is "Lord of the Sabbath?"

          1. Does this have anything to do with the Sabbath being
          "blessed" or "holy?"

          2. Does the "regeneration" that we have been talking 
          about have any connection with the idea of blessedness or
          holiness? 

               a. How about the regeneration of the shriveled hand
               guy? Did that have anything to do with holiness?
               (This is why we spent so much time on the "primary
               audience" question. The closer we look at this, the
               more clearly it appears that healing the guy's hand
               was not "the point" of the story.  "The point" (for
               those who came for a spiritual blessing) was a
               lesson on the relationship between Sabbath holiness
               and personal well-being.) (For those who still
               think the "watcher" were the primary audience, I
               concede that Jesus hoped that they would repent and
               get "the point.")

     F. What do you think should be the highest goal, the "target"
     of Sabbath activities? (To regenerate spiritual and physical
     health. Christianity Today recently ran an article on the
     Sabbath which highlighted the way in which the Sabbath gives
     us a reason to pause from our busy work schedule. I remember
     what a blessing the Sabbath was my first year of law school.
     That first year my basic activities were reduced to studying,
     eating and sleeping. There was intense competition and always
     something to be done. But Sabbath was a time of "guilt-free"
     refreshment.  Instead of feeling guilty for not studying, I
     would have felt guilty if I had studied.  Although this
     removed a massive block of study time I was (am) convinced
     that the Lord blessed me for it -- I was not at a competitive
     disadvantage for my "forced" rest.)

     G. Is the Sabbath "preventative medicine?"  Why?

     H. Someone read Isaiah 40:30-31. Does Isaiah suggest a link
     between studying God, spirituality and physical strength? (You
     bet!)

          1. Is this one way in which Sabbath regeneration and 
          Sabbath holiness are linked? (If we renew our "hope" in
          Jesus, then we will "soar on wings like eagles," we will
          "run and not grow weary," we will "walk and not faint."
          Praise God for giving us the Sabbath!  Be sure to take
          your medicine!)

III. NEXT WEEK: UNCONDITIONAL HEALING. Study!